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Howling Diablos - conducted by Todd E. Jones  

Misery Loves The Company Of Howling Diablos

September 2005

MVRemix: Who are some of your major influences?

Tino Gross: I immediately liked the early pioneers like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and the guys that took the Blues to the next level. It hasn't really been done any better than that. I started working back to people like Robert Johnson and Son House, when Blues music had a really dangerous edge and was not to be taken lightly. I also like jazz guys with an edge, like Coltrane, Charlie Parker, etc. Later, I loved Hendrix, Elvis, The Stones, and Detroit music like the Stooges and MC5.

MVRemix: Who are the contemporary artists you respect?

Tino Gross: Lots of people! The Clash, Ramones, White Stripes, and The Black Keys. Coldplay is hot. I also like Paul Wine Jones and Tom Waits.

MVRemix: What has been in your CD player, tape deck, or on your turntable today?

Tino Gross: I have been listening to the Junior Kimbrough Tribute CD on Fat Possum. It is called ‘Sunday Nights’. Also, some P-Funk and ‘Johnny Cash at Folsum Prison’. I woke up today and made a Blues mix-tape with Fred McDowell, RL, Elmore James, and others.

MVRemix: How did Howling Diablos meet and eventually become a band?

Tino Gross: Gary Grimshaw, the rock poster artist, was doing a show at a place in Detroit, called the Michigan Gallery. Gary asked me and Johnny Evans, who plays harp and sax, if we'd be interested in playing. That was really the first gig. We kept going after that. Mo Hollis, who plays bass, joined soon after. We had lots of different drummers and guitarists. I think we have the best line-up now with Johnny Bee on drums. He worked with Mitch Ryder, Dr. John, and Rockets. Also, we have Mike Smith on guitar. I love the way we all hit together and ride.

MVRemix: Where were you doing the September 11th terrorist attack? How did you deal with it? How do you think it has affected music?

Tino Gross: I was in my car, in the morning, driving down Woodward. My girlfriend called me on the cell and asked me if I'd heard anything about what was going on in New York. I said, ‘No. What are you talking about?’ She told me that she thought New York was under some kind of attack. I went in the house and turned on the TV. Boom! I flipped on the TV and it was a shot of both towers still standing, but one was smoking. I was watching as the 2nd plane came in low and hit the other tower. My mind was blown when the whole thing fell down. I was numb and thought the world was ending. It has affected music by making people realize this country is hated by a good portion of the Eastern world. Our people are dying because of that. Some things really need to change before it becomes too late to turn it around.

MVRemix: What is your favorite part of your live show?

Tino Gross: I always dig it when the groove gets down low and nasty. I love it when people are smiling and having a good time.”

MVRemix: How has your live show evolved?

Tino Gross: It's gotten more energetic for sure. I love playing live. That's what it's really all about.

MVRemix: Are there any signature songs you always play to start the concert? What about songs that you end the concert with?

Tino Gross: Our drummer, Johnny Bee makes sure the pace is right. We've been starting with ‘Car Wash’ and ending with ‘Elvis Lives’. Sometimes, we wrap up with ‘Prison Train’. People love that. For a long time, we would end with something called, ‘Go Gene Go’. It has a drummer swing groove. People always loved that. Now, were mostly doing stuff off the new CD. It's going good.

MVRemix: What pisses you off?

Tino Gross: Dumb asses or yahoos wanting to hear cover tunes. Also, bad sound men that think they're Hitler, no beer in the dressing room, no dressing room, and sports bars with televisions everywhere. Stuff like that is annoying.

MVRemix: What song made you fall in love with The Blues?

Tino Gross: I'm into Blues and soul music because it has that real genuine sound. As far as what song, I think I really liked some early Jimmy Reed. Robert Johnson's ‘Hell Hound On My Trail’ is about as badass as music will ever get.

MVRemix: What other bands were you in before Howling Diablos?

Tino Gross: I was in a band called The Urbations, back in the 1980’s. I was the drummer in that outfit. It was kind of like a new-wave meets The Specials and The English Beat sort of thing with horns. We toured a lot. We were on Celluloid Records in New York City and managed by John Sinclair. He was the former MC5 manager. I became more of a free-lance guy when that went down the tubes. I played drums with everybody around Detroit and Ann Arbor, at that time. I played with Big Walter Horton, Johnny Shines, Steve Nardella, and John Nicholas. This was all for Blind Pig Records. I've been doing the same sort of thing again recently with Fat Possum Records, out of Mississippi. I just did stuff like Nathaniel Mayer's excellent new CD, ‘I Just Want To Be Held’, Little Freddie King's ‘You Don't Know What I Know’, Charles Caldwell's ‘Remember Me’, and the last two RL Burnside CDs, ‘A Bothered Mind’ and ‘Darker Blues’. In between all the freelance stuff, I played a couple gigs with Dee Dee Ramone, when he moved to Detroit in the early '90s. I'm on The Romantics new CD, last year. The Howling Diablos is my favorite thing because I'm playing guitar, singing, and doing my own material on a great label like Bomp.

MVRemix: What is the meaning behind the name Howling Diablos?

Tino Gross: It just sounded cool, like Rolling Stones, Black Crowes, or Mannish Boys. I think the Howling Wolf might have inspired it. Of course, Nolan Strong and the Diablos were out of Detroit.

MVRemix: What are the best things about living in Detroit?

Tino Gross: Wow! I'd have to say that growing up in Detroit enabled me to soak up some incredible music and taught me how to do my thing, because a Detroit boy can survive.

MVRemix: What are the worst things about living in Detroit?

Tino Gross: Man, it can be hell. Like in any big city, you need to know where you are and why you're there at all times. I've been robbed several times. I’ve have had shotguns put in my face. I was at the Union Street in Detroit, across the street from the Magic Stick when a crack head came in and robbed the place. I crouched down behind a table and the guy put a cap right through it. Missed me by an inch. At the same time, I love this place and I’m proud to call it my home.

MVRemix: What was the biggest mistake you have made in your career?

Tino Gross: That's hard to say. There's been a lot of real highs and a lot of real lows. I'd say the lows were a result of me trusting people and believing their bullshit. This is common in this industry. Getting burned. The highs are incredible. I sat in on guitar with Bob Dylan at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, a few years ago. I couldn't put a price on that. It was a real high most people will never experience.

MVRemix: What classic Blues songs have you covered? What ones would you like to cover?

Tino Gross: We really haven't messed with too many of them because it's hard to beat the original. We did cover RL Burnside and didn't fuck it up too bad. I'd like to tackle ‘See That My Grave's Kept Clean’, originally by Blind Lemon Jefferson back in '28. During live shows, we mess with a little bit of Howling Wolf's ‘Killing Floor’.

MVRemix: Favorite guitar?

Tino Gross: Fender.

MVRemix: Word association. I am going to say the name, and you say the first word that pops into your head. If I said, ‘The Beatles’, you may say, ‘Revolver’ or ‘Yoko Ono’. Okay?

Tino Gross: Cool.

MVRemix: The Rolling Stones.

Tino Gross: Chuck Berry.

MVRemix: Muddy Waters.

Tino Gross: Chess Records.

MVRemix: Eminem.

Tino Gross: Marshall.

MVRemix: The White Stripes.

Tino Gross: I love the drummer.

MVRemix: My Bloody Valentine.

Tino Gross: Great name.

MVRemix: The Stone Roses.

Tino Gross: British boys.

MVRemix: Happy Mondays.

Tino Gross: Mommas and The Poppas.

MVRemix: The Blues Brothers.

Tino Gross: Comedians.

MVRemix: B.B. King.

Tino Gross: Master.

MVRemix: Curtis Mayfield.

Tino Gross: Soul genius.

MVRemix: Billy Holliday.

Tino Gross: Black soul.

MVRemix: Gil-Scott Heron.

Tino Gross: Revolution.

MVRemix: Jamiroquai.

Tino Gross: Nice groove.

MVRemix: George Bush.

Tino Gross: Retard.

MVRemix: What can we expect from Tino Brass and / or Howling Diablos in the future?

Tino Gross: We're gonna keep on keeping on.

MVRemix: Final words?

Tino Gross: John Lennon said it best. All you need is love, baby.

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"It just sounded cool, like Rolling Stones, Black Crowes, or Mannish Boys. I think the Howling Wolf might have inspired it. Of course, Nolan Strong and the Diablos were out of Detroit."